ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Belly still plans to move the pile.
The Broncos' shift to an outside zone scheme may change Quinn Meinerz's responsibilities and technique, but his penchant for pushing or pulling his running backs — and the relevant mass of players — down the field will not change.
In 2021, Meinerz earned national attention for pushing Javonte Williams and a pile of Cowboys defenders for an even bigger gain, and he did the same for Mike Boone against Kansas City. This season, he'll aim for a repeat performance — and the Broncos' new scheme may make it easier for the bruising guard.
"That's offensive lineman play, in my opinion," Meinerz said of moving piles. "It's being able to finish. If anything, it might be a little bit easier because I'm already going to be running off the ball and running on an angle. And then Javonte is going to hit it and I'm going to keep running and pushing the pile, and it's going to continue to be the same thing [as last year]. That's part of my game that's never going to leave. I feel like that's kind of maybe a little bit of my signature of how I play the game."
There are, of course, more technical parts to the transition to a different blocking scheme, but Meinerz believes he's making strides in that move. He's among the first players on the field each day, and he's gotten the lion's share of the reps at right guard over the last week.
"I've been feeling pretty good right now," Meinerz said. "I have been learning a lot and taking every bit of coaching and every little bit of detail of anything I can get. Obviously a lot of people are talking about, I lost a little bit of weight so I can play faster in this outside zone — [requiring] more movement — system. Right now I'm feeling pretty good, but there's always things to keep correcting and get better at."
Meinerz said he dropped about 10 pounds, which has made him feel much faster off the ball. In a scheme that requires players to run off the line at the snap, Meinerz said he's able to get to the weakside linebacker more quickly, which should set the Broncos up for success in the run game.
"I feel like I can just sprint and go straight ahead, and I'll beat that linebacker nine times out of 10," Meinerz said. "Even if he gets over the top, I'm going to latch on and run you out. Certain blocks like that, I can really feel the speed and especially when [right tackle] Calvin [Anderson] and I on the right side are working doubles, I just feel a lot faster."
Starting linebacker Josey Jewell has seen that speed from Meinerz as he's gone against him over the last few weeks in practice.
"He's good," Jewell said. "He's got some good movement in space. He's a big guy, he can move people when he's tight — in double teams and stuff like that. But what people don't see is he can still move in open space, get around, really quick feet for a big guy. He's fun to go against too."
Jewell, though, joked that he wasn't sure about Meinerz dropping a few pounds ahead of the season.
"We might have to check him on the scales," Jewell joked.
THE OTHER SIDE
Pat Surtain II has garnered nearly all of the attention at the cornerback position, but Ronald Darby has had a nice camp of his own.
"We're really glad to have him," Hackett said. "It's a pain going after him every day. … He's real smart, he's a veteran. He's another guy that doesn't panic, that plays his technique, challenges the guys. Very excited for him."
Darby is the only player to intercept Wilson during training camp, as he hauled in a potential pick-six in coverage against Courtland Sutton. The play may have been the result of increased work ahead of practice. Darby has been among the first players out to practice, and he's started each day working on the JUGS machine with the receivers.
Though Darby posed three interceptions in eight games in 2017, he has not picked off a pass in the last two seasons. He said Friday that improving his ball skills is among his biggest priorities in training camp, and he'll aim to help the Broncos create more turnovers in 2022.
If Darby and Surtain can each maintain their level of play, the Broncos' cornerback duo should be the best the Broncos have featured in years.